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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05BUCHAREST1606 2005-07-19 14:22:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Bucharest
Cable title:  

NO NEW ELECTIONS -- PRIME MINISTER RETREATS ON

Tags:   PGOV PREL KDEM SOCI RO 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BUCHAREST 001606 

SIPDIS

STATE DEPT FOR EUR/NCE - JANE MESSENGER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/19/2015
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM SOCI RO
SUBJECT: NO NEW ELECTIONS -- PRIME MINISTER RETREATS ON
RESIGNATION PLANS

REF: A. BUCHAREST 1584


B. BUCHAREST 1557

Classified By: POLITICAL SECTION CHIEF ROBERT S. GILCHRIST FOR REASONS
1.4 (B) AND (D)



1. (C) Summary: Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu
announced July 19 that he would not follow through with his
earlier intention to resign and press for snap elections.
The decision follows days of vacillation and what appeared to
be a firm decision to step down as late as July 13.
President Traian Basescu met with Tariceanu earlier in the
day and was reportedly irritated with Tariceanu's indecision.
Meanwhile, much of the country remains preoccupied with
widespread flooding, with the political opposition accusing
the government of focusing on political bickering at a time
of crisis. While Tariceanu may have preserved his position
in the short term, his vacillation has raised new doubts
about his abilities to lead. End Summary.



2. (C) PM Tariceanu announced in a hastily called press
conference late afternoon July 19 his intention to remain in
office, characterizing resignation at this time as "an act of
cowardice." He underscored that given the current
humanitarian crisis related to widespread flooding, "now is
not the time to abandon the people" or to engage in
"politicking or party infighting." Tariceanu said that he
had initially announced his intention to resign at a time
when "we did not have floods." He also claimed that during
his recent trip to Brussels he had "received a message" to
avoid political instability.



3. (C) The announcement followed a morning of speculation by
Embassy contacts that Tariceanu was retreating on his earlier
commitment to step down. One contact from Tariceanu's
Liberal-Democratic (PNL-PD) Alliance said to PolChief that
the decision "finally puts to rest" uncertainty as to whether
the country would hold early elections. However, the same
contact added, many in the PNL-PD are "now disappointed" that
the Alliance may have missed its "only opportunity" to widen
its narrow parliamentary majority.

Basescu Irritated


--------------------------




4. (C) Tariceanu met with President Basescu earlier July 19
for what was initially intended to be his formal resignation.
However, according to key presidential advisors, the PM
confirmed to Basescu that he had changed his mind about
resigning and pressing forward with new elections. This
decision was reportedly cemented by Basescu's reluctance to
reappoint Tariceanu as interim prime minister. The
constitution stipulates that the position of interim PM must
be filled by another cabinet member. According to
Presidential Advisor Claudiu Saftoiu, Basescu found deviating
from this requirement or bending the rules "unacceptable."



5. (C) Basescu was also reportedly "extremely irritated" with
Tariceanu's vacillation and tried to convince him to stay the
course. Basescu left the meeting "disappointed" and departed
Bucharest by helicopter to visit flood damaged areas, with no
intention to meet Tariceanu again for the remainder of the
day.

Tariceanu's Trip to Brussels


--------------------------




6. (C) Although some contacts opine that Tariceanu returned
from his July 18 trip to Brussels with a belief that the EU
opposed elections, sources with the most direct understanding
of events say that was not the case. EU Commissioner for
Enlargement Ollie Rehn publicly expressed concern over
Romania's "turbulent political situation which could...delay
its planned entry in 2007." However, the EU Ambassador to
Romania Jonathan Scheele told Charge that Commissioners in
fact gave a mixed message, with Commissioner Franco Frattini
congratulating Tariceanu for taking a "courageous decision"
to hold new elections and demonstrating Romania's commitment
to deep reforms.



7. (C) Scheele indicated that the EU mission here was
embarrassed by the whole elections episode because the
signals had changed so dramatically over the weekend -- after
their briefers had gone into Brussels -- and because in the
public eye it appeared to some that Tariceanu had buckled
under EU pressure not to hold early elections. Until this
week, Scheele said, he had still rated the chances for a 2007
membership date vice 2008 as better than 50-50. After the
ongoing display of dysfunction -- he claimed some European
investors were reacting nervously to ongoing events -- his
own personal odds had probably dropped below the 50-50
threshold. At the same time, Brussels would not make a final
judgment in its October report -- that would wait until next
spring. The jury was still out, for sure, and EU wanted to
keep leverage as long as possible.



8. (C) In Scheele's opinion, Tariceanu was finished
politically "one way or the other." Scheele further opined
that Tariceanu had recovered from his vacillation a week ago
over the resignation only again to retreat on what was to be
his final decision to resign. Scheele commented dryly that
perhaps Tariceanu should have consulted more widely before
digging himself in deeper, including with the EU. Scheele
expressed his opinion that the PM was a very decent man, who
had been a good interlocutor and with whom one could be frank
and expect frank responses.

Why the Wavering?


--------------------------




9. (C) In addition to supposed EU concerns and worries about
whether Basescu would reappoint him as PM, Embassy sources
cite several other concerns Tariceanu likely considered in
making his final decision. First and foremost, the two
smaller parties of his coalition -- the ethnic Hungarian
party (UDMR) and the Conservative Party (PC) -- oppose a
return to the polls due to concerns they will not meet the
minimum threshold for returning to Parliament. Tariceanu
would have needed their parliamentary support to force new
elections. According to numerous sources, the PNL-PD was
having "little success" in picking up sufficient votes from
parliamentary independents to compensate for potential lack
of PC or UDMR support. In addition, some within the PNL-PD
quietly opposed new elections, reluctant to return to the
polls after a grueling year of elections in 2004. Recently
released opinion polls also showed a majority of the public
opposed new elections.



10. (C) Many PNL-PD politicians also worried about the optics
of pressing for new elections against the backdrop of
widespread flooding, the worse humanitarian disaster since
the 1989 return to democracy. The opposition was already
using the situation to its political advantage. Most
recently, on July 18, PSD Executive President and former PM
Adrian Nastase criticized Basescu for refusing to declare a
state of emergency, observing that a state of emergency is
not limited only to instances in which the security of the
state is under threat. He directly criticized PNL-PD
politicians for focusing on the possibility of snap
elections, insisting that responding to the floods and
achieving EU integration are Romania's key priorities.



11. (C) Many Embassy contacts, however, ascribe the wavering
to what appears to be Tariceanu's personal style of
leadership, which they say increasingly appears to be
"indecisive and unfocused." Saftoiu said that many in the
political majority now felt "embarrassed." He expressed few
doubts that over time these sentiments would be expressed
more broadly and even publicly by many in the PNL-PD.



12. (C) Comment: While Tariceanu may have preserved his
position in the short term, his vacillation has raised new
doubts in the minds of many Romanians about his abilities to
lead. His stature within his coalition has undoubtedly
declined tremendously over the past 12 days, with prospects
for a diminished and demoralized government facing a
reenergized opposition PSD. Basescu's clear irritation and
disappointment may also herald more overt tension between the
president and the prime minister that may ultimately
contribute to Tariceanu's premature ouster. This could be
magnified by a lukewarm EU country report on Romania
scheduled to be released in October. One local analyst
opined to PolChief that Tariceanu had an opportunity to "show
genuine leadership" through his daring move to call for new
elections. He squandered that opportunity, and his ability
to revive his previously high approval rating has now been
cast into doubt. For the most part these wounds were
self-inflicted by Tariceanu and represent a somewhat
discouraging commentary on prospects for the PNL-PD to govern
effectively and push forward on needed reforms. End Comment.



13. (U) AmEmbassy Bucharest's Reporting telegrams, as well as
daily press summaries, are available on the Bucharest SIPRNet
website: www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/bucharest.
TAPLIN